“We need to consider looking at the next great thing for Cobb County,” Goreham said, during a town hall forum she held Thursday evening at the county’s Senior Wellness Center on Powder Springs Street.
Years ago, that economic boost was installing an extensive sewer system that allowed Cobb to grow and thrive, she told the 40 attendees, 13 of whom were county staff.
“What’s the next thing that’s going to take us forward? Is it going to be mass transit?” Goreham asked.
Mass transit comes hand-in-hand with economic development, she said.
“Appropriate development and land use goes hand-in-hand,” she said. “Connecting your business centers, your educational centers are all part of it. And I’m just posing that question, is that the next great shot in the arm for Cobb County that’s going to push us forward? I don’t know at this point.”
During the growth years she served as commissioner, from 2003 to 2008, the economic boost for Cobb was single-family residential development and strip centers, Goreham said.
“That’s not going to be what’s going to propel us forward,” she said. “That’s over. You’re going to have some development, but you’re not going to have it to the extent that you had during those real boom years.”
So the question becomes what will aid the county in keeping property taxes low while ensuring growth, she said.
Goreham said mass transit will probably not benefit her. Rather it’s for her children, who are in their 20s, and her grandchildren.
“My kids think it’s cool to be able to step on mass transportation,” Goreham said. “And you know, we’re losing our younger generation, and they’re going to places like Austin and San Antonio … and also to the Charlottes and whatever because they want to give up a car, and they want to get on some form of mass transit and go whether they’re going to work, to restaurants, wherever. We have to look out in the future at what that next great shot in the arm for Cobb County, what’s going to propel us in the future.”
Goreham said incoming residents should be directed to a particular location.
“Why not look at an area of Cobb County that one could probably accept increased density, which is the 41 corridor?” Goreham said.
Goreham said she didn’t want more density in her west Cobb district and was sure her colleagues on the commission didn’t want increased density in their districts.
“Why not localize that growth, provide a means of transportation that could service that growth, and also look at having the opportunity for people to live in that area and increase your population?” she said. “I don’t want to subdivide my acre lots in west Cobb and throw four more homes on that. Why not put it in an area that could maintain the growth, successfully, and provide a transportation mode and then provide opportunities for business growth, connect your job center and your education centers? Makes a lot of sense to me.”
The county is in the process of eyeing this idea with the recommendation of a $1.8 million Northwest Corridor Alternatives Analysis study spearheaded by Croy Engineering to build a proposed $1.1 billion KSU-Midtown bus system that uses both Interstate 75 and Cobb Parkway. Faye DiMassimo, the county’s transportation director, said there is potential for half of the project to be paid for with federal dollars. The proposal is still in draft form while the county waits for Kimley-Horn & Associates to finish up a $3 million environmental study of the project, which will take one to two years. DiMassimo said the earliest the bus program could be operational, should everything fall into place and the county be able to secure the necessary funding, is 10 to 12 years.
“I looked back several years ago when Sam Olens was on the board, and he was a great proponent of the 41 corridor with mass transit,” Goreham said. “We both agreed to the fact that if we’ve got to provide for the thousands of people that are still going to come to Georgia because it’s a great place to live, because of taxes and opportunities, man, I would like to focus it somewhere. I don’t think they want to focus it in Vinings, meaning they don’t want smaller lots and homes on top. They don’t want apartments, but why not choose an area that would thrive with it?”
Goreham was asked about remarks made by Rebecca Gutowsky, who recently retired as division manager of Cobb Community Transit. Gutowsky said one of the challenges her successor will face is the funding and growth of CCT, a system Southeast Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott said the county subsidizes $9 million in this year’s budget.
DiMassimo pointed out Thursday’s town hall that $3 million of the $9 million number comes from federal grants.
“It’s actually $6 million in county funding,” DiMassimo said.
Goreham said there was no point expanding the CCT system until a good plan was in place to do so and a secure source of funding was obtained.
“It’s probably going to interface, if indeed we have (bus rapid transit) down that 41 and 75 link, it would be part of that,” Goreham said. “And also part of the funding mechanism there because what’s being looked into right now, there’s developers. You know how you have town center CIDs, self-taxing areas? Well you can have transportation districts, say, if you have a section of 41 where you think you’re going to allow for more density, maybe you’re going to have more apartments in there along a four lane. Perhaps in exchange for that density there is a self-taxing mechanism through the development that provides funding for the transportation. But wait for the AA to come out because they’re supposed to look at the different ways of financing possible.”